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Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

With recent articles talking about cuts on transit funding by the Province and an increasing delay in travel times for commuters I can’t stress enough the importance in diversing our transportation network. We have discovered, yet again, that private automobile use is plauged with issues of congestion and it’s easy to understand why – supply and demand. The more cars on the road (which is the result of an increasing population both in the City and from our neighbouring suburbs) means increased demand for the supply of roads we have, which is not growing since we can’t sprout roads in a dense city like Toronto. Increasing demand, short supply, congestion. Unless we find a way to increase the number of roads on our city streets (double-deckered roads? But then again their is the issue of induced demand) or drastically change demand for roads there is only one viable solution to this: increase supply of complementary goods.

In economics, complementary goods are similar products/services that can be used in replace of an existing good, for example: if the supply of apples cannot meet demand the supply of pears can help satisfy the demand to achieve equilibrium. In the case of commuter demands, we need to invest in complementary goods such as transit and cycling infrastructure. It may sound crazy to some pro-car-anti-cycling folks out there but more bikes mean less cars. How does work? Well let’s look at a bike lane such as the one on Harbord Street. Harbord is a minor arterial with two lanes of traffic. Not one. Two. The left lane is a vehicular lane and the right lane is a bike lane. If, for example, at an intersection there are five cars in the left lane and five bicycles in the right lane. That means if the bike lane did not exist and the cyclists chose to drive instead that intersection would have 10 cars waiting. Now, that may seem like a small number but when there are thousands of cyclists in Toronto that’s a LOT of cars off the streets contributing to congestion.

Though it has been established by countless studies as well as proven examples across North America and Europe that increasing cycling infrastructure can help congestion there are still many critics out there. Yes, a family of four cannot ride their bikes from their home in the inner-suburbs to downtown Toronto or an elederly man cannot bike from his home in the Beaches to Little Italy but the point is not to transition all drivers into cyclists (though that would be dandy). The purpose of increasing cycling infrastructure is to provide viable options for commuters in deciding their modal type. In providing options of walking, biking, taking transit, or driving we diversify how people travel: More transit riders, less cars. More cyclists and walkers, less cars. Less cars, safer streets. Safer streets, more cyclists and walkers. Etc.

And don’t worry about those bike lanes being under-utilized, Mr. Rossi, they are being used. Unlike cars, bikes don’t have the issue of being held up at intersections so there is never a backed-up bike lane like there is a backed-up street. Also, don’t forget the adage if you build it they will come as increasing the supply of bike lanes will induce demand for it, a study conducted by Ipsos Reid supports this, “up to 40% of recreational cyclists could be motivated to cycle to work or school regularly, half of whom would do so if biking to work/school were safer than it is now.”



Posted: March 30th, 2010
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Filed under: Transportation Issues
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